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Suggestion for smartphone makers: Invest in wireless energy transfer!

Posted by Henry Cheang | May 2, 2014 12:00 PM

Lament of a cord-cutter…

It’s strange how quickly we become completely attached to a way of life. Growing up, the telephone was landbound, cord-restricted device. My parents in particular, being quite conservative in their ways, absolutely refused to budge from using rotary dial phones until the phone company itself came in and took it away! 

Wireless_Energy_Transfer

So now, when I look at just how very, very, very, VERY dependent I’ve become on my smartphone, my mind absolutely reels at how far I’ve come! I’m a cord-cutter – my smartphone IS my homephone. I go everywhere with it, and it does so very much more than place and receive calls. I do have a pretty major quibble about the smartphone though: The battery.

Why do smartphone batteries use up their charge so quickly? 

More accurately, the lack of charge held by the battery is ridiculous. I know that my smartphone does a lot, and that it all requires electricity. The pretty high-def screen doesn’t run on just air, after all. But, seriously – if we can put what amounts to a laptop in the palm of my hand, why can’t we pack more juice in the battery? I mean, I seriously have to recharge at least once a day, and if I’m using the GPS or video extensively, I can easily need two recharges in a single day! Just why is smartphone battery life so short?

The answer, of course, is that we’re still using outmoded technology – the batteries in use are literally last century’s technology, albeit miniaturized. It’s almost (but not quite) the same as trying to run a modern car using the steam engine! 

So what can we do? Well, here’s my suggestion: Invest much more heavily in WIRELESS ENERGY TRANSFER! 

What is Wireless Energy Transfer?

Once confined to the realm of fiction, the wireless transmission of energy has become a reality in the past decade as part of a broader and already-flourishing trend of wireless technology. Wireless energy transfer (WET) is the transmission of electrical energy from a power source to a device without using interconnecting manmade conductors (i.e., wires). It's one of the emerging technology trends that everyone should study more carefully!

The most established means of energy transmission – transfer through copper media – is costly, slow, and limits both the positioning and the range of operability of devices. Wireless energy has emerged as a popular solution among scientists who are now exploring various technologies and applications. Broadly, there are two categories of WET: far-field and near-field energy transfer. 

This isn’t an engineering blog, so I won’t get into the technical details of the protocols. And besides, regardless of how it’s implemented, the potential application of WET is enormous. Unsurprisingly, there is considerable interest in bringing WET to market on a wide scale, and although numerous smartphone makers (such as HTC and Sony) are investing R&D into WET, they really should be near the front of that pack with respect to the size of their investment! 

Business Response to WET

Currently, there is a spirit of openness in development, with many early adopters offering demo kits of their implementation of WET in order to make their technology accessible for prototyping by others. All manner of companies have thrown their support behind various dueling formats (with the Wireless Power Consortium and the Alliance for Wireless Power forming the bulk of support for two separate standards), but in the end, it just might make better sense to invest in all the formats because they all have advantages! And while I know the initial cost of technology development is astronomical, but it is a worthwhile investment in the future: Batteries are the most expensive form of energy in the world!

Advantages of WET

  • True modularity and autonomy of equipment and services – we’d able to rid ourselves of wires for good!
  • Ecofriendliness
  • Wireless devices would become far more agile, autonomous, and mobile than anything currently available.
  • The value of a developed wireless energy market is projected to be worth 4.5 to 15 billion dollars by 2020 – whoever properly develops this won’t only become a powerful player in the smartphone market, they’d become players in other industries as well!
  • At least one form of WET – inductive power – is harmless to humans – there’s definitely hope that we can build a fully-functional WET system without hurting ourselves! 

I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t mention the disadvantages, however… 

Disadvantages

  • It’ll take a while to get fully useful WET. Presently, the best implementation of WET only attains 90% energy transfer from source to target. Losing 10% is a huge waste!
  • The maximum current range of operation is small – only about 15 meters. Either the range has to be improved, or we’d have to build many, many, many transmitters!
  • Security can be an issue – a wireless source of energy may be a prime target for theft or other malicious acts.
  • Potential long-term health concerns – it will take decades of study to be truly certain of the health impacts of WET. 

Despite these drawbacks, the benefits will likely be enormous. The savings in infrastructure and materials alone may offset all of the above disadvantages. As an avid smartphone user, I can most definitely see the advantages! 

In the meantime, we have to make do with what we have, and cut costs however we may. In that vein, may I suggest you contact us? We’re the market leaders in technology and telecom expense management, and our Cimpl platform can certainly help you easily manage your fleets of mobile devices!

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Topics: Wireless management, Mobile Devices, Smartphones, WET

Written by Henry Cheang

Henry has a lifelong passion for science and technology. This enthusiasm is put to good use in a cutting-edge software company like Cimpl. As product marketer, Henry researches market and user needs to develop user and buyer personas, contributes to product design, and helps coordinate product messaging. Henry also writes nearly the entirety of all documentation for Cimpl’s many successful platforms. In his spare time, Henry devotes much energy to family, friends, and martial arts. Henry recently completed his Master’s in Business and Administration from Concordia University, where he specialized in the study of marketing, organizational behavior, and corporate governance. He has authored academic papers on the latter two subjects; these papers form part of his bibliography of over 20 professional research publications.

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